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FAQ on the SAO

SAO Basics

How do I know if a school accepts the SAO?

To find out whether a school participates in the SAO, use the school search, selecting the "Accepts Standard Application Online" filter. The results will only show schools that accept the SAO. In addition, you can search for a school by name using your account’s “Apply to Schools" feature. The search results will reflect whether the school accepts the SAO.

When does the school receive an application through the SAO?

As a best practice, we recommend that you first complete your student profile and submit it to a school along with the application fee. As soon as you do that, the school will receive and begin tracking your application via their SAO system. Any components and forms completed after this initial submission will be delivered to the school in real time.

What are the system requirements to use the SAO?

The following systems and browsers are supported:

PC (Windows version 7,8,10) 
  • Chrome: We recommend at least version 51,52
  • Firefox: We recommend at least version 47,48
  • Microsoft Internet Explorer: Version 11
Mac (OS:10.11 El Capitan and 10.12 Sierra)
  • Safari: Version 8,9
  • Chrome: We recommend at least version 51,52
  • Firefox: We recommend at least version 47,48
Regardless of browser, please make sure the following browser settings are correct:
  • Javascript must be enabled.
  • Cookies must be enabled.
Other Software needed:

To view and print PDF files, we recommend Adobe Acrobat Reader (latest version). While PDF files should work with most other PDF viewers, we can only guarantee full compatibility and support with Adobe Acrobat Reader.

Can I use the SAO to apply for multiple years?

Yes, you can apply for multiple session years with the SAO. You can search for schools by session year to see if they accept the SAO for the session year/s that you are interested in. Please note, each session year application requires that you complete and submit the application for that year individually.

What if a school that I am applying to doesn't accept the SAO, while others do?

Though close to 500 independent schools in the U.S. and Canada accept the SAO, you might find a school you are interested in that does not. In that case, you must submit a traditional application to that school. We recommend that you visit the school’s website to understand their unique application process. Please note that certain components of the SAO application, like the Student Profile, Student Essays, and Parent Statement, once submitted through the SAO, are available in PDF files on completion via your SAO dashboard. You can simply download those and use them to apply to non-participating schools if the receiving schools do not have any objection.

What are Standard Application Online common forms?

The Standard Application Online contains a wide library of online common forms used by schools accepting the SAO to fulfill their school-specific requirements. The standard form list is as follows:
  • Parent Evaluation Form: A standard section containing personal development descriptors to be completed by the parent or guardian. Usually used for students applying to PK-Grade 5.
  • Student Evaluation Form (typically used for grades PK-1): A standard recommendation form containing  personal development descriptors and classroom readiness to be completed by a teacher at the current school.
  • Student Evaluation Form (typically used for grades 2-5): A standard recommendation form containing  personal development descriptors and classroom readiness to be completed by a teacher at the current school.
  • Student Essay: A standard section containing 5 writing prompts to be completed by the student.
  • Parent Statement: A standard section containing 4 writing prompts and student character skill descriptors to be completed by a parent or guardian.
  • Personal Recommendation Form: A standard recommendation form to be completed by an adult familiar with the student outside of the classroom, in the areas of athletics, performing arts, or extracurricular interests  
  • English Recommendation Form:   A standard recommendation form requesting information about the student’s English language knowledge, skills, and personal development to be completed by an English teacher at the current school.
  • Math Recommendation Form: A standard recommendation form requesting information about  the student’s mathematical knowledge, skills, and personal development to be completed by a mathematics teacher at the current school.
  • Principal Recommendation Form: A standard recommendation form requesting information about the student’s overall academic background and personal development to be completed  by a principal or guidance counselor at the current school.
  • Official School Report and Transcript form: This is a standard form used by schools to collect information about an applicant's current/previous school academic performance. It includes instructions to upload official transcripts and school reports. It must be completed by a guidance counselor or school administrator. Most schools require 2 full years of transcripts as well as the most updated grades for the current year. Check all to request reports from one administrator, or select individual administrators for specific years.
  • Any Teacher Recommendation:  A standard recommendation form requesting information about the student’s subject knowledge, skills, and personal development to be completed by a teacher at the current school.

Student Application Dashboard

What is a School Supplement form?

The SAO provides schools with an option to include an additional online component that will include any information that is important to their application process. If a school requires a supplement form, you will see the requirement under that school’s card on your SAO dashboard.

How can I change my grade or the residential status I selected on a school application?

You can change your grade and residential status on all unpaid applications by clicking on the school card and scrolling down to “Edit Student Information.” Clicking on that link will open up a dialog box wherein you can change the grade and residential status.

How do I use my dashboard to track the status of my application components?

You can track the overall completion of a school application via the completion meter placed on the top right of a school application card. Please note the completion meter only takes into account the required components. You may have certain applications that require optional forms, and those do contribute to completion of the application.

Individual required components can be tracked via the statuses posted under each component name and the associated button.

How do I complete applications for multiple children?

Parents can complete and track applications for multiple children associated with their parent account. The parent can simply use the “Student Dropdown,” located under the top navigation bar on the webpage, to select the child for whom they want to complete the application. You will not be required to fill in your parent profile data multiple times. However, student profile and applications for multiple children must be completed and tracked individually.

My workstation indicates that my application is complete, but the school is telling me their portal does not show the completed status. What am I missing?

The SAO delivers applications and related components to school/s in real time. Though your SAO dashboard might show an application as complete for a school, the receiving school may have a lag in showing the correct status related to your application due to separate processes they might run periodically to update their portals.

What is “Interests and Activities”?

Many schools like to know more about the student and their interests. Interests and activities, as part of your student profile, is an optional section that allows you to tell schools about your extracurricular interests and activities.

What can I upload and/or showcase as part of my multimedia tab on the Student Profile?

The multimedia links tab is an optional tab on the Student Profile that can be used to provide links to any videos, portfolios, or other showcases of your achievements or work that you would like to share, like websites, blog pages, or a YouTube channel. Please be aware and respectful of the content of the links that you include, as they support your application.

Recommendations and Transcript Forms

The person I listed did not receive a link to provide the recommendations. What should I do?

Confirm that the email address you entered for your recommender is correct. If in doubt, resend the request to the recommender by clicking the “resend” button. Please advise your recommender to look for an email from This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with the subject line containing the name of the form and your name.

I assigned my recommendation form incorrectly. How can I undo it?

If the recommendation form has not been submitted by the initial recommender, simply resend the recommendation by replacing the former recommender’s information with the new recommender’s information and clicking the “resend” button for the recommendation form via your SAO dashboard. The new recommender will receive an email with a request to complete the form and the previously assigned recommendation request will expire.

How do I follow up on teacher recommendations?

If the recommendation form has not been submitted by the initial recommender, simply resend the recommendation by clicking the “resend” button for the recommendation form via your SAO dashboard. This will resend an email to your recommender so they know they have to finish the recommendation. Additionally, it’s a good idea to remind your recommender personally when you see them at school!

How does a teacher submit a recommendation outside of the SAO system?

If your current teacher, recommender, or school administrator would like to include any additional narrative or documentation, or if the school requests any other form or report that is not supported by the SAO, please have them send those to the school/s directly. Those items will not be tracked as part of your SAO dashboard. Likewise, the receiving school will also not be able to manage those documents via the SAO system.

How do I request transcripts and school reports via the SAO system?

Most schools using the SAO require up to 2 full previous year transcripts and school reports and the most updated current year transcript and school report. In order to complete this section of the application, you must request and have your school administrators fulfill these requirements. To request transcripts and school reports:

First, click on “Sign Release” so that your administrators know that you have authorized them to release your reports and transcripts through the SAO system.

Next, request specific year reports from your school administrators. Your school administrator/s will receive a link to upload the reports and transcripts in PDF. The SAO dashboard will reflect year specific completion and overall completion of the requirement.

What happens if my report cards don’t come in before my school's application deadline?

Schools prefer to see the most updated official reports and transcripts for the current year. If the deadline is fast approaching and the latest marking period reports are not yet available, ask your school administrator to upload the previous marking periods' reports. You will have another opportunity to submit most updated reports and transcripts at the time of enrollment.

If in doubt, please contact the school directly.

Can I edit a form after submission?

The standard online forms and recommendations cannot be edited once submitted. The forms and recommendations allow you and your recommender to save responses as drafts and continue to work on them until they are fully complete. Once you have reviewed them and are ready, the system will ask for your acknowledgement to submit. Once you submit those forms, they are delivered to all schools that require them as part of the SAO.

Working with Advisors

Who can I designate as an advisor?

If you are working with a placement counselor at your current school/organization or with an educational consultant, you can choose them as an advisor on your application/s to allow them to assist you with managing and/or monitoring your applications. Your school, organization, or educational consultant must be a member of The Enrollment Management Association to be eligible to be added as an application advisor.

Please note, you can only have one advisor for all your applications for a session year.

What is an advisor’s role on my application?

If you are working with a placement counselor at your current school/organization or with an educational consultant or community-based organization (CBO), they will help with the overall application process - from advising on the schools that could be a good fit, to ensuring that you are on track in terms of meeting application deadlines. Placement counselors and CBOs can also assist with your application by completing certain sections of the application, like uploading transcripts and writing principal/counselor recommendations.

Many placement offices and CBOs place their “Advisor Instructions” within the SAO. Those can be found to the right of your advisor school or organization's name on the SAO dashboard.

Can I change my advisor?

Yes, you can change your advisor if you have added an incorrect one or have changed your advisor.

You can do so by clicking “Remove Advisor,” located to the right of the advisor name. Once you remove, the former advisor will no longer be able to track the progress of your application.

Payment and Submission

Can I edit my Student Profile after submitting an application to a school?

You can continue to edit and update your student profile via your account or the SAO dashboard. Please note that any changes made after a profile is submitted to a school will not be delivered to that school.

How can I receive application fee waivers?

You can request for an application fee waiver from the school to which you are applying. Unlike a test fee waiver, an application fee waiver will only waive an application fee for the school that issued it. It also waives the $6 SAO administrative fee.

What is the $6 administrative fee per application?

The administrative fee is a nominal fee charged for online processing of the SAO. If you receive an application fee waiver from a school, the administrative fee associated with that application will also be waived.

In case I submitted something by accident or I change my mind, what’s your refund policy for applications?

Because applications through the SAO system are delivered to schools in real time, we have a 24-hour refund policy for applications that may have been submitted by accident. Once an application is refunded, the school will no longer receive any updates on your application.

Please note, school application fees are fully refundable within the 24-hour time window, but the administrative fee is non-refundable.

Also, we cannot refund an application fee once it has been disbursed to a school. In that case, we advise you to contact the school directly to cancel your application and request a refund.

If I have components pending at the deadline, will the school still consider my application?

As a best practice, we highly recommend that you track the completion of your application and components against the school application deadline. However, each school may have unique completion criteria and flexibility to consider pending or in-progress applications. If in doubt, check with the school directly.

How do I pay for and submit my applications?

A SAO can be submitted to a school simply by completing your student profile and submitting the application fee for that school. At that time, your student profile and any other completed components will be delivered to the school. You can pay for the school application fee via a credit card or an application fee waiver if you have received one from the school.

How do I send updates to my Student Profile after submission?

Once the student profile is submitted to the school, your edits and updates to the profile will not be sent to the school. Please send any critical updates to the school directly. They will be able to accommodate them in your file.

What happens if my profile is incomplete?

If your profile is incomplete, you will not be able to submit or pay for your application/s. The profile completion can be tracked through the completion meter shown alongside the profile component. You can click on the update button to complete your profile. Once the profile is 100% complete, you will be able to pay for and submit your school application/s.

What if I have an issue with my credit card?

Application fees for schools can be paid via Visa, MasterCard, and Discover credit cards. If you are using one of these cards and experience issues submitting your application fees, please contact us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.